• Published 21st Aug 2021
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Letting Go Of The Reins - applebatofalltrades



Applejack's rodeo career takes a turn. She must learn to adapt to her new life and the challenges that come with it.

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Applejack Goes Splat

Applejack’s head ached as she sat in the back of the car. It had been a few hours since her failed run and her body only seemed to resent her for it more as the time passed. Next to her were her cousins Apple Split and Apple Cinnamon making light conversation, and her brother, who gazed out the window as they made the drive to the innermost part of the town. In the front seat were Braeburn and Apple Fritter, chatting it up like two kids at the movie theatre.

At least she could get her mind off of things soon. While not her first option for an outing, the bar seemed like it could potentially be fun. She definitely needed to loosen up a bit; that much was a given. By the time they had left, the sun was dipping down near the horizon. Now, however, the sun was completely set and the blues and purples of twilight filled the sky. It was pretty, but most importantly, not blindingly bright. Though, it was significantly cooler than it had been earlier.

If there was anything Applejack knew, it was that alcohol really served to warm her up. She grinned in anticipation, trying to put everything behind her and just enjoy herself. The approaching lights grew her excitement even more. They were about to be there, she just knew it.

It seemed she was right.

The car stopped as Braeburn parked on the street in front of an unassuming strip of small buildings. One particular little building stood out from the rest thanks to the music coming from it and the neon lights illuminating the sidewalk in front of it. Small groups of people hung out in front of what was certainly the bar. Applejack recognized some of them from the rodeo, but she didn’t know almost any of their names.

“Here we are. Salt Lick Saloon,” Braeburn revealed as he hooked his arm around the passenger seat headrest to look at the group squished together uncomfortably in the back. “It don’t look like much, but after rodeos it’s the best place to be.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “So you come here often?”

Braeburn chuckled sheepishly in return, his cheeks reddening. “Well, it’s an easy way to meet girls…”

Apple Cinnamon snickered. “And none of ‘em stick, ain’t that right?” he asked in a crackly voice.

The other man turned away with a grunt. “Anyway, let’s go have fun, why don’t we?”

Everyone in the car, even Big Mac, whooped in excitement. The car doors opened in near unison as everyone piled out of the car, chattering excitedly. Despite her previous nerves about the bar, Applejack grinned as she looked at the bustling building.

Next to her, Braeburn took the lead, turning to the group. He grinned and held his arms to the side, gesturing behind him, backlit by the flashing neon lights. “Welcome to Appleoosa,” he said excitedly.

Applejack turned to make eye contact with Apple Fritter, a smile broadening on both of their faces. Fritter jumped in excitement, despite knowing she couldn’t drink, while Applejack let out a hearty hoot.

Leading the group to the bar, Braeburn confidently strolled in. The amount of people was a bit overwhelming, though it was mostly the constant talking that made Applejack’s head throb. She shrugged it off along with the ache running down her back and ribs, eager to have a few drinks.

“Man, I wish I could drink,” Fritter mumbled, pulling up to the bar and looking dejected at a bowl of peanuts. She took one and cracked it between her fingers, rolling the gem inside in her digits. “Well, legally at least. Y’know, cuz?”

Applejack clapped her shoulder. “Soon enough, Fritter. For now, you get to drive us home,” she joked with a wink, scratching her hatless head. She took a seat next to her, waiting for the rest of her family to make a decision on what to do. Sure enough, Braeburn tipped his hat and made his way into a crowd, instantly making conversation with a group of girls. No doubt smooth talkin’ ‘em, that sap, Applejack mused.

Big Mac went off with Cinnamon and Split to a table, each procuring a beer from a young man with a cooler. Applejack wasn’t sure if he worked for the bar, but the bottles were sealed so she didn’t think much of it. Sighing, the blond e gestured with her fingers for the bartender. She caught his attention easily as he pardoned himself from the conversation he was having with a patron on the other side of the bar and made his way to her.

It was almost regrettable as his eyes quickly, but obviously, wandered between Applejack and Fritter. The bartender smiled a bit too easily and set down the glass in his hands with a washcloth still inside it. “Hey there,” he drawled, “what can I get you two beautiful ladies?”

It took every last bit of effort not to roll her eyes. Applejack resorted to glaring at the man. “I’ll have just a whiskey to start. On the rocks,” she added. Ignoring the pleased look the barkeep gave her, she glanced at Fritter. “Oh an’ she’ll have—”

“—The same,” Fritter interrupted quickly. She glanced at Applejack with pleading eyes before looking coolly back at the bartender. “To start.”

Applejack furrowed her brow at her cousin, but kept her mouth shut at the stare she received from her. Apple Fritter glanced at the man, then at her before turning her attention back to him.

He nodded and turned around. “You got it.”

Fritter,” Applejack hissed under her breath. “Y’ain’t supposed to drink.”

Fritter shifted in her seat. “Oh, just the one, cuz,” she reasoned. “C’mon, they ain’t even cardin’! I just want one, or else what’s the point’a comin’ here?”

“Oh I dunno,” Applejack growled, “to be our driver?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m havin’ just the one,” Fritter repeated. “C’mon, don’t you trust me, cuz?”

The jet-black haired man turned back to them. “Here you go. One for blondie, and the other for that glorious green hair.” He slid two whiskey tumblers to the pair with a wink. “Holler if you need anything.”

Applejack waited until he turned around to roll her eyes. She stuck out her tongue behind his back, then set her gaze back on Fritter. “Fine. But I swear on my mother’s grave if you get caught, or worse, drunk…”

“I won’t,” Fritter promised. She took a tiny sip of her drink, grimacing at the flavour. “God, I don’t really even like the taste of this stuff if I’m bein’ honest, cuz.”

Shrugging, Applejack took a more moderate sip of her drink. She squinted, then looked at the golden brown liquor. “Huh, this sure goes down smooth, don’t it?”

“You bet,” the bartender responded out of nowhere. Applejack hadn’t even noticed him come back. “It has that good burn in the back of your throat, right?”

“I guess,” Applejack responded dismissively, deciding she’d rather down the rest of it at once. The ice cube clinked in the small glass as she set it back down on the table. “Go ahead an’ get me another, if ya don’t mind.”

Apple Fritter glanced at her incredulously, taking another sip of her own drink, followed by a displeased grimace. The bartender let out a short laugh and nodded. “Of course. Say, you seem like a pretty rocking girl,” he started, pouring another round over Applejack’s left-over ice cube. “What’s your name?”

“I dunno how I feel ‘bout tellin’ some strange guy I met at the bar my name,” Applejack pointed out with a smirk. She took the tumbler between her fingers and slid it on the table, twirling it slightly so the ice cube would slosh around.

“Just some guy, huh?” the man responded, glancing at Fritter. “Do you think I’m just some guy? I mean, clearly there’s some kind of trust here. I am serving you two drinks.”

“Oh, I dunno,” Fritter responded sheepishly. She averted her gaze and held the drink up to her face as her cheeks flushed. “I reckon you got a point…”

“And I reckon you have a name, right?” he responded. “Mine’s Rusty Nail, but you can just call me Rusty.”

Applejack watched her ice cube. “Rusty Nail, huh?”


“Yup.”

“Ain’t that the name of a drink?” Applejack prodded, glancing up at Rusty.

He rubbed his neck and tapped his fingers on the smooth wood. “Yeah, it’s just—oh hold on,” he trailed off as he scampered to another patron.

Applejack exhaled in relief as he pulled out several drinks, no doubt about to put on a show mixing them. “Either that fella’s got a weird name or he made it up.”

“I think he’s bein’ sincere, cuz,” Fritter responded, finally finishing off her drink and setting it down. “And I also think… he likes you.”

“What?” Applejack choked out. She snorted and glanced at her drink. “That’s crazy. He’s just bein’ a flirt like most bar-dwellin’ men. Prob’ly just wants to get in my pants.”

Fritter shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe. But, I dunno, he seems friendly enough.”

Applejack shot down the drink and shook her head at the taste. It burned down her throat, but it felt good. “That’s what they want ya to think, Fritter,” she told her. “Just be careful, alright? It’s your first time in a joint like this, right?”

Her cousin nodded. “Yeah.”

“Then take my word for it,” Applejack insisted. “Be careful who ya talk to.”

Right on cue, Rusty came back and grinned at their empty drinks. “Oh, having fun I see? You know, I get off my shift pretty soon. I’ve been just cleaning all afternoon,” he explained. “Maybe once I get off, we can form a little trio. What do you think?”

Applejack gave a non-commital grunt. “I guess.”

“Great,” he replied with a casual smile. “You want another?”

“Not of this. How ‘bout… well, ya can’t go wrong with an Ol’ Fashioned. Gimme your best.”

“One Old Fashioned, coming right up,” he promised confidently.

Fritter nudged Applejack. “Another one? We basically just got here, cuz. Is that a good idea?”

“Oh relax, Fritter,” Applejack dismissed with a wave of her hand. “I can handle myself. Don’t get yer britches in a twist.”

The green-haired girl tapped her chin, frowning slightly. “Well, if you’re sure…”

Applejack nodded as Rusty placed the drink in front of her. It certainly looked good, at least, but she figured Fritter was right and held off on drinking it.

“So, you’re not from around here, right?” Rusty asked, slouching now that most of the patrons had moved on to other tables or standing around. “I haven’t seen you here before.”

“Naw,” Fritter replied, tapping her fingers on her empty tumbler. “We’re just visitin’ for the weekend.”

Rusty raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. “This sleepy little town? Why, you got family or something?”

Applejack shrugged. “Kinda. We came for the rodeo.”

“That makes sense,” Rusty told them. “I take it you did okay? Came as a celebration with your little group?”

Applejack’s back slumped slightly as she frowned. Fritter seemed to notice as she cleared her throat. “Well, it sure wasn’t as great as usual,” she admitted, glancing at the downtrodden Applejack, “but nothin’ ever goes as planned, right?”

The blonde grimaced. Definitely not my plans.

“Ah, sorry to hear it,” Rusty responded.

With a shrug, Applejack responded, “Whatever. Can’t do nothin’ ‘bout it now. Just gotta do my best tomorrow.”

Next to her, Apple Fritter smiled and nudged Applejack. “Don’t beat yourself up too much, cuz. Was just the one event. You did well in the other one.”

Applejack sipped her drink, gazing at the wall. It tasted about as good as she hoped, though she couldn’t stop thinking about her failure. “I pushed Barley too hard.”

Rusty slid a shot glass down the table before cocking his head. “Who’s Barley?”

“Her horse,” Fritter explained. “Such a handsome stallion. Him ‘n Applejack make a great team.” She smiled, though it faltered a bit as Applejack glared at her. “Whoops.”

“Applejack, huh?” Rusty echoed. “Nice name.”

She sighed and set the drink down firmly. “Thanks. I got it from my parents,” she responded sarcastically.

If Rusty noticed Applejack’s temper, he didn’t show it. “So if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly happened? You don’t seem like you’d be the angry type of girl normally.”

“I do mind you askin’, actually,” Applejack shot back. Her legs twitched as she adjusted herself in the uncomfortable seat. Despite that she took a long sip of the rest of the drink, slamming the glass down on the top of the bar. “If ya want me to tell you, get me a beer I can sip on. One Star if you have one.”

Rusty hesitated, before turning to the fridge and pulling out an ice cold beer labeled One Star. He placed it in front of Applejack, then reached for the cap opener, but before he could even do anything, she grabbed it and with the help of the ring she always wore, snapped off the top.

“Anyway,” Applejack started, taking a moment to relish in Rusty’s impressed stare while taking a sip of the much more familiar drink, “I’ve been havin’ a great season so far, right?”

Apple Fritter cracked a peanut between her teeth, spitting the shell away. “You sure you wanna talk about this, cuz?”

“Don’t interrupt me,” Applejack shot back. She tapped her fingers on the glass bottle. Fritter frowned and focused her attention on the bowl of peanuts she had taken for herself. Ignoring her, Applejack cleared her throat. “I guess I just wanted to have some fun this mornin’. Pushed my horse too hard an’ by the time we got to my main event, he musta been exhausted.”

“Oh,” Rusty acknowledged. “So did he underperform?”

Another sip. “Heh, if you call buckin’ me right off him and losin’ his cool underperformin’, sure,” Applejack joked darkly. “To be honest, I don’t remember much about what happened after that. All I know is that I fell hard an’ it hurt like hell an’ now I’m here.”

“Wait,” Fritter interjected. She glanced over at Applejack with a frown. “Ya said you were fine. Ran off before the medics could come check on ya.”

“I am fine,” Applejack responded sternly, slapping her hand on the counter. “If I wasn’t fine, then I wouldn’ta come here.”

Apple Fritter owned her mouth to say something, but glanced behind Applejack and shut her mouth.

“Well, well, well,” an all too familiar voice interrupted. “If it isn’t Applejack.”

Apple Fritter responded with a friendly smile and a greeting, while Applejack groaned and chugged the rest of her beer before turning to glare at the intruder. “The hell do you want?”

Strawberry Sunrise waved off her group, motioning them to keep going. “What do you mean? This is a public bar, and maybe if you had ever accepted any of my invites you’d know that everyone likes coming to these after competitions.”

Rusty coughed and abandoned ship, focusing on the new group of people at the end of the bar. Apple Fritter gazed on after him with a tiny grimace.

“That doesn’t mean ya gotta come bother me,” Applejack pointed out with a frown. “You come to gloat ‘bout yer win?”

“What? No,” Strawberry said, her expression matching Applejack’s. “It doesn’t even count. You got thrown off. Not exactly the right way to beat you, y’know.”

Applejack grunted in response.

Strawberry cocked her head. “How many drinks have you had? You’re… acting weirder than usual.”

“Three,” Fritter replied quickly. “Or, well, four if you count that beer she just finished.”

“Jeez,” Strawberry muttered.

“It’s fine,” Applejack insisted again. She tried to signal for Rusty, but he seemed busy. With a sigh, she crossed her arms as Strawberry sat down on her other side.

The redhead placed her arms on the shiny, smooth wood. “Hey, so are you okay? I heard about what happened with Barley.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow at her sincerity. “Yeah, I’m… alright,” she responded after a moment’s hesitation. “Just… a bit sore, is all.”

The bar seemed louder than it had been previously as Strawberry took her time responding. Applejack glanced over to where the rest of her cousins were throwing darts. It seemed that Big Mac was winning as he grinned proudly. Poor Cinnamon had his head in his hands while Split patted his back.

“That’s good. I’ve never seen Barley act like that,” Strawberry said, whistling to get Rusty’s attention. “Any idea why?”

Oh, I don’t just have an idea. Applejack shrugged. “Musta been tired or somethin’.”

Apple Fritter kept quiet.

“At least he gets to rest a bit tomorrow,” Strawberry pointed out. As Rusty came back, she pointed to the bar. “Straight whiskey here, please.”

Applejack pulled at the neck of her shirt. “One here too.”

Rusty glanced at Applejack, but did his job regardless. He slid the drinks over to them. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Strawberry replied. “Well, cheers.” She lifted the shot glass and held it between herself and Applejack.

Hesitantly, Applejack clinked her glass against Strawberry’s. “Cheers.”

They downed the drinks together. Strawberry made a face, which got Applejack to laugh as the drink burned her tongue all the way down her throat. “Nice, right?” Applejack asked.

“Yeah, wow, it burns but goes down easy,” Strawberry agreed.

“Y’know,” Applejack said slowly with a mischievous smile. “I was a bit bummed out from earlier, if I’m bein’ honest. But seein’ your ugly mug made me forget about it for a bit.”

Strawberry rolled her eyes, though the smile on her face didn’t fade. “Glad I could help, though next time just look in a mirror,” she quipped.

In response, Applejack snorted and whacked her in the arm. “Yer just jealous,” she pushed out.

“Oh yeah?” Strawberry caught Rusty’s attention and waved a circle in the air with her finger. Applejack copied the motion. Soon, they each had another drink near them. “Of what?”

Applejack wasted no time in letting the burning liquid slither down her throat. She shook her head at the sensation, feeling light headed. “My looks, of course.”

Strawberry snorted, almost choking on her own drink. “Your looks?”

“Sure! I mean, yer pretty’n all, but I knock you right outta th’park,” Applejack joked, leaning heavily on the bar.

The redhead smirked. “You think I’m pretty?”

Applejack waved her hand. “Aw, shut up, Strawb,” she drawled. “I ain’t a liar, so I can’t deny it. But don’t think too hard ‘bout it, alright? I mean, everyone thought so back in high school, remember?”

“Sure,” Strawberry agreed, not commenting on the compliment further. “Hey, where’d Apple Fritter go?”

Applejack hummed, cocking her head. “Whaddya mean?” She turned to her other side. “She’s right—Oh.” She rubbed her head as she glanced around, though she must have turned too fast as the uncomfortable feeling of headrush took her over.

Strawberry held out her hand to steady her. “Woah, relax. You sure you’re fine?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she replied with a groan, shaking off Strawberry’s hand. “Sorry, prob’ly just the alcohol kickin’ in,” Applejack admitted.

“You took a hard fall, didn’t you?” Strawberry asked. “Did you happen to hit your head?”

“I dunno, maybe,” Applejack admitted. “But I’ve taken harder falls, I just need to sleep it off or somethin’.” With a shrug, she dismissed Strawberry’s worries. Or at least tried to.

“Well, the med team cleared you, right?”

Applejack averted her gaze. “Not exactly,” she admitted sheepishly. “I left before they had a chance.”

Strawberry gawked at her. “What? Applejack, no offence, but that’s… so stupid.”

Despite having been insulted, Applejack couldn’t even bring herself to get angry. Instead, she sighed and rubbed her temple. “I know,” she groaned. “I wasn’t thinkin’ straight. I just really hate doctors an’ I was really… pissed off ‘bout what happened.” She glanced at her small lineup of empty drinks and frowned. “But I’m fine, an’ I’m here t’enjoy myself.”

Her bar buddy stayed silent for a moment before shutting her eyes in some kind of defeat. “Well, I’m sorry about what happened,” Strawberry offered uselessly. “I know it was important to you that you win. And frankly, I don’t feel right having beat you in those circumstances.”

Applejack shrugged. “Thanks, I guess,” she muttered, tapping her fingers on the top of the bar. She gazed at her reflection in the shiny wood and sniffed. Her nose and the area around her eyes were slightly bruised from slamming her face into the ground, but considering that, she felt lucky to have gotten off so lightly. Applejack shook her head, avoiding any reminder of her most recent mess-up.

Another drink would help with that. She called for Rusty once more.

~~~~🍎~~~~

Having a tongue in her mouth wasn’t exactly the most pleasurable thing, Applejack realized as she lazily toyed with her kissing partner’s lips. Her eyes slid half open, glancing over the guy’s features. Must have been some kind of cowboy judging by his Western hat and smoky breath. Something about the alcohol was hazing her mind, as she struggled to even remember how she got to that moment. Huffing for breath, she pushed him off of her slightly, opting to instead lean back on the wall she was pushed against.

The guy eased up and took a step back, but didn’t take his hands off Applejack’s hips. “What’s wrong, darlin’? You wanna move on to somethin’ more?”

Maybe that’s what she had wanted before, but something changed. She shook her head. “No, not really,” Applejack stated bluntly. “I ain’t feelin’ it right now.”

“That ain’t what you said before,” he argued with a growl, gripping Applejack’s arm. “C’mon, you’ll change yer mind, trust me.”

The loud music made Applejack’s head spin. She did all she could to hold her ground, despite her knees feeling weak beneath her. “Sorry, mister, but I changed my mind. Now go away or you’ll regret it,” she warned, though she wasn’t sure how effective her threat was.

Despite being in a bar, the guy reeked of alcohol more so than his surroundings. He gave Applejack another sharp tug, managing to get her to stumble forward. “Aw, don’t be like that,” he responded coolly. “C’mon, girl. I’ll give you exactly what you want. I promise I’ll play nice,” he added, inching Applejack away from the wall.

A slight panic overcame her, but her drowsy body did little to voice it. She glanced around for help or something to help herself with, but everyone was turned to the stage where the music came from, leaving her in that secluded corner. Applejack gulped, but hardened her resolve along with her gaze. “Let me go,” she said sternly, suddenly hating the taste in her mouth. “Or I swear to God I’ll beat you over the head with yer own arm.”

Her assailant paused, considering her words. She wasn’t that much shorter than him, and was confident she could give him a fair fight, especially with how wasted he was. Not that I’m exactly any better.

“Fine,” he growled, releasing his strong grip on her forearm. “Bitches like you ain’t worth it anyway. Ya had a chance at a good dickin’ an’ now you gon’ regret it.” He scowled at her before turning away and traipsing away to God knows where.

Applejack stuck her middle finger up as he walked away. As he disappeared into the crowd, the realization of what almost just happened hit her and she smacked her forehead. “God, I’m stupid,” Applejack muttered. Her entire mouth felt violated, even though she had seeked it out initially. Disgust flooded over her as the last ten minutes all replayed in her mind. She needed something to wash out that taste. Anything.

She pushed her way through the crowd, not in the direction the jerk had went, and found the bar. Words stumbled out of her mouth, and she found herself with a mug of beer in hand. The almost bitter taste of it felt like fresh water cleansing her mouth’s interior as she let the ice-cold liquid wash over her tongue. She barely had time for a breath before draining the mug and requesting a bottle instead. Half of that drained down her throat as she followed her ears to the loud music that emptied her brain.

Everyone cheered as the live band finished another song. Applejack joined in, groggily raising her half empty bottle of beer. Her legs felt wobbly beneath her, but she managed to stay upright, laughing away the discomfort she felt from the loud noises and bright lights on the stage.

Who even thought putting lights in a bar was a good idea?

Or was it a saloon? That's what it was called, right? Salty Saloon? Naw, ‘twas Licky Saloon. Salty Lick Saloon? Salty Saloon? Applejack snorted and shook her head, realizing that was the first one she thought of. Licky Saloon. No. Salt Lick Saloon. Like horses.

Her smile wavered for a moment as she remembered the feeling of getting thrown off by her own horse. As quickly as the thought came, she shook it away angrily. “No, y’ain’t here to think ‘bout that,” she admonished, slowly making her way to an empty table at the end of the bar near the wall. The thought of the location made her squirm, but it was one of the only available seats. She sat down heavily, practically letting herself fall into the uncomfortably hard chair. Her entire back protested in pain, but she ignored it as she took a sip of her beer.

“One Star’s pretty good,” she mumbled to herself, enjoying the taste of the beer. Her eyes groggily raised to watch the band from the distance. She recognized one of the members, the one playing the fiddle, though she couldn’t quite place her face. “Hmm, from a photo? Maybe I saw’er at a fam’ly event... “

Her thoughts drifted as she bit softly on the spout of the bottle, teeth clinking against glass. “Faddy… No, Fiddy. Fiddly?” That felt right. “Fiddly, maybe. Would make sense,” she realized with a snort as she watched the woman play.

“Oh hey, I was lookin’ for ya,” someone said as they wrapped their arms around Applejack’s neck, putting far too much weight on her back.

Applejack tipped forward at the unexpected weight, but righted herself with a hand on the table. She tried to glance back, but found herself unable to. Though, even past the smell of alcohol, Applejack distinctly smelled that sweet shampoo that her rival always used. “Strawb, whaddya want?”

Strawberry stood, lifting her weight off of Applejack, who exhaled in relief. “You left in th’middle of our conversation to go make out with some guy! Bit rude, AJ. Fritter had to keep poor Rusty entertained while I came to find you.”

Applejack faltered a bit, but played it off as smooth as she could. “Y’know, ya get a bit of an accent when yer drunk,” she said with a grin. “Too much time playin’ cowgirl?”

The redhead scoffed, shoving herself down on the seat opposite Applejack. “C’mon, first of all, I’m not that drunk, and second, my parents are full fledged country folk,” she argued. At Applejack’s raised eyebrow, she nodded. “Not kidding. I just moved to the city with my cousins to be closer to the school, so I kinda took on that accent more.”

Applejack crossed her arms. “Bullshit.”

Strawberry didn’t break eye contact for a full three seconds before bursting out into laughter. “Okay, yeah, I was bullshitting,” she admitted. “Mostly. My parents are country folk, but not the kind with accents. I think I’ve just been spending too much time with ya.”

“Ugh, can you stop?” Applejack begged with a smirk. “I’m serious. Text me before ya come to our place so I know to stay away.”

“But you never gave me your phone number,” Strawberry pointed out with a fake pout. “It’s not fair. You have mine, but I don’t have yours.”

“I have yours cause’a business reasons,” Applejack pointed out, pointing the neck of her bottle at Strawberry. “You don’t need mine.”

“Aw c’mon, Applejack,” Strawberry complained. “You just told me—”

“Alright, ya want my number so bad?” Applejack asked loudly. “Fine, gimme yer phone an’ I’ll put it in for ya.”

Strawberry let the lively folk music fill the silence as she handed Applejack her phone. The blonde snatched it and input her contact information hastily, making sure to set her name simply as “Applejack”. No nicknames. With an annoyed grunt, she shoved the phone into Strawberry’s chest, though truth be told, she was aiming to simply hold it out in front of her.

The redhead caught her phone as Applejack let it drop, quickly snapping her hand back to her side of the table. She took the final few gulps of her drink and placed it on the table. “Anyway, maybe we should find Fritter’n Rusty,” Applejack pointed out, rubbing her gut. “Feel bad leavin’ ‘em.”

The other girl scoffed with a smirk on her face. “Oh, I’m sure they’re fine,” she responded smoothly. “She’s totally into him, you know.”

Into him? “That’s crazy,” Applejack retorted, frowning at the thought. “Why would ya even think that?”

“You didn’t notice?” Strawberry responded with a slight cock of her head. Applejack simply gazed in confusion, which Strawberry scoffed at. “Oh please. She was all”—she put her hands on Applejack’s forearm, leaning over the table—“‘Oh Rusty, yer so funny. I’m gonna sit beside ya all night ‘n laugh at yer jokes’,” she mocked with a laugh.

Applejack glanced at Strawberry’s hands on her forearm for a brief moment before looking back at Strawberry with an unamused glare. “No she wasn’t.”

“Sure she was,” Strawberry deflected, sitting back in her seat. Applejack’s arm seemed to almost burn as the touch left her body, and with it the discomfort she hadn’t noticed before. “And you know what? I think he likes her, too.”

“Naw,” Applejack replied with a shake of her head. “A guy like him? What’s there to get?”

“What’s there not to get?” the redhead countered. “He’s young, handsome, has a job, and is mostly well-mannered.”

Applejack tapped her chin. “I mean, I reckon ya have a point. I just don’t see it.”

“Have you ever even liked a guy?”

“Well, no, not really but—”

Strawberry held up a hand. “Wait, seriously?”

Applejack nodded her head slowly. “Eeyup.”

“Not even a little? What about that guy you were just mashing lips with?”

The blonde shrugged slightly, grimacing a bit at her comment. “I dunno what came over me with’im. Don’t even know his name,” she admitted, deciding she’d rather not talk about it. “An’ in general, I never thought about it, t’be honest. I jus’ don’t have time. It ain’t like I spend my time sittin’ on my ass on a chair all day, y’know.”

Strawberry nodded. “Well, yeah, but you mean you’ve never even… I dunno, thought a guy was cute?”

Applejack thought back real hard. “I mean, I can tell if a guy’s attractive, y’know? I guess that’s why I tied tongues with... t-that guy. But that’s pretty much it,” she said with a shrug. “I ain’t wired to think like that, I guess.”

“Huh,” Strawberry muttered. “I mean, how many guys do you even really see that aren’t cousins or whatever? And no, it doesn’t count if you barely see them for more than a moment or two.”

“Well, I talk to the bullfighters a lot,” Applejack admitted. “But otherwise, not a lot. Kinda just talk to my family an’ the other girls that I’m competin’ against.”

Strawberry scoffed with a smile on her face. “You’re actually ridiculous. How do you function like that?”

“I reckon I do just fine,” Applejack shot back. “I got more important things t’worry ‘bout. Like my career an’ the ranch. All the other stuff can wait.”

“Is that all you want though?” Strawberry prodded. She gave a sort of half smile that only served to make Applejack scowl.

“Sure,” Applejack said slowly. “What’s yer plan, then, if ya wanna act all high an’ mighty.”

“Hey, I wasn’t doing that,” Strawberry defended, holding her hands up. “I’m taking a gap year, then I’m gonna apply to college. Maybe get a business degree or something. I want to start my own shop.”

“Oh yeah? And what are ya plannin’ on sellin’?” Applejack asked.

“I dunno. Flowers, maybe,” Strawberry admitted. “Either that, or I’ll sell pies.”

Applejack snorted. “Good luck with that,” she muttered, only half meaning it. She glanced at her hands, mindlessly toying with the ring on her middle finger. It seemed like her legs were falling asleep beneath her, so she shifted and slowly got to her feet. Stupid metal chairs.

“Where are you going?” Strawberry asked, following Applejack with her eyes.

Applejack rubbed her thighs, trying to force the tingly feeling away. “Gonna get another drink. You want one?”

Strawberry rose to her feet, though a bit unsteadily. “Another one? Is that a good idea?”

“I’ll be fine,” Applejack forced out. “Just wanted t’get my legs movin’ anyway. Besides, I’m here to have fun, right?”

Slowly, Strawberry approached Applejack with an outstretched arm. “Don’t risk it, you’ve had way more than me and you already had a bit before I came,” she pointed out. Applejack took a step back, but not in time as Strawberry grabbed her arm. “C’mon, how about we take a breather?”

Applejack twitched and yanked her arm, but Strawberry kept her grip. “Let me go,” she growled as she stumbled back with the effort. Thankfully, Strawberry held her upright, though not without a stumble of her own. “It’s just one more, Strawb.”

“No, you’re being stupid, Applejack!” Strawberry hissed, pulling her to the entrance as several pairs of eyes turned to watch. “Even if you can handle that many drinks—and I doubt anyone can—you’re not being yourself. You shouldn’t have even come after that fall you took.”

Applejack’s heart raced as she planted her feet on the ground right at the doors to the tavern. She glared defiantly at Strawberry, knowing she could overpower her if she wanted to. “What do you know ‘bout my fall?” She shoved Strawberry back. “Ya weren’t there, ya didn’t see it, so stop tryna fuss ‘bout it!”

“Don’t you push me.” Strawberry bared her teeth, taking another step closer. “I’m just trying to look out for you, AJ!”

“How many times do I gotta tell you?” Applejack clenched her fists. “Don’t call me that! You don’t get to call me that!”

“You’re so infuriating,” Strawberry shot back. She pushed Applejack square on the shoulders, making the blonde stagger back a few steps against the door. “You need to stop drinking or you’re gonna do something you’ll regret.”

Applejack laughed lowly. “I already did, Strawb,” she responded quietly. Her gaze flickered at her hands, then back to Strawberry. “I lost, an’ it was all my own fuckin’ fault.”

“Then stop moping about it and move on!” Strawberry yelled, taking the initiative to finish forcing Applejack out the door.

They both stumbled onto the ground with a hard thud. Pain shot up Applejack’s already hurt body as the patrons in the building went eerily silent. Applejack winced as she hit the ground, feeling as though someone had punched her in the gut. Strawberry jumped off her and rose to her feet, though not as gracefully as she would have thought.

Applejack felt her stomach turn in response to the sudden movement. In a split-second response, she rolled over to her knees and desperately crawled to the side of the road. Everything inside her emptied out onto the black surface with a splat. Her head spinning from the effort, Applejack blinked, disoriented.

“You stupid pest,” she growled, her throat burning from the alcohol making its second trip through her throat. “Why don’t ya just butt out of my life.” Applejack pushed herself upright with a groan. Her legs threatened to give out beneath her, but she forced herself to stay up, albeit a bit hunched over. She turned around to face Strawberry, glowering. A small group stumbled out of the building, but Applejack paid them no mind.

Strawberry frowned, not tearing her eyes off Applejack. “Why do you like playing the victim? You’ve held a grudge against me for years, even after I apologized. You always act like I’m doing something to hurt you, and now you’re acting as if your life is over ‘cause you fell off your stupid horse!”

Applejack scowled, her vision reddening. She took a step forward, but was held back by a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Big Mac glancing at her with a deep frown, though she shrugged him off, shoving his arm away. Applejack took a staggered step forward, shoving an accusatory finger in Strawberry’s face. “Ya just don’t get it, do ya? This is my only shot at doin’ somethin’ for myself. I was supposed to win. I was supposed to get paid so I can do things t’help out! But I failed, an’ worst of all, it was my own fault.”

“Applejack,” Big Mac interjected behind her. Both girls ignored him.

Strawberry furrowed her eyebrows. “It’s just one barrel race, Applejack! One! It’s not like it was the final barrel race ever.”

“But I needed to win,” Applejack shot back. “We need the money! There was this, this sponsorship scout there who coulda been somethin’ big for me, but I messed it all up!”

Apple Fritter came next. She approached the yelling match and gingerly walked between them. “Woah, cuz, relax.”

“Why do I have t’relax?” Applejack yelled. “She’s the one who pushed me out here!”

“I didn’t push you,” Strawberry responded with a cock of her head. “I mean, I did, but I didn’t push you that hard. I was trying to get you outside after you got all aggressive out of nowhere.”

“So then that’s my fault too,” Applejack mumbled to herself. Like the fall, an’ gettin’ hurt, an’ that guy back there. She clenched her fists and shook her head. “Y’know what? Yer right. I’m piss drunk, an’ that ain’t enough. If y’ain’t gonna let me have another drink, then I wanna go back an’ lay down.”

Something about what she said seemed to piss Strawberry off. “Go sleep it off then,” she growled, taking a step back and turning away from Applejack. “Last time I try to help you.”

Applejack paid her comment no mind. She angrily set her gaze on Apple Fritter, who glanced back at the group where her family and Rusty watched awkwardly. The blonde shook her head, her feet struggling to keep her upright. “Drive me back,” she muttered, her arms shaking. “I’m done here.”

Fritter glanced at the rest of their family as they slowly trudged back to the car. She gave Rusty, who frowned with concern, a small wave. “Alright.”

Author's Note:

3am update! And a long one this time. I actually meant for this one and the next one to be one chapter, but this ended up being a lot longer than I thought it’d be, and I haven’t exactly finished the next one yet. I would have waited for the next one to be done, but I wanted to have something to upload today since it’s my birthday and I thought I’d treat myself to some... well, more serious stuff.

I hope that one scene didn’t make anyone too uncomfortable or anything. Sorry if it did.

Hopefully, next chapter will be ready for next week :> In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this one.

Drink responsibly, y’all. Don’t make dumb decisions like our dear Applejack here.